Letter from the Department of Physics Head,

Scott Dodelson

One-hundred years ago, in 1919, Arthur Eddington observed the displacement of stars during a solar eclipse, verifying Einstein’s theory of relativity, forever changing humanity’s view of space and time.

It has often been noted that today we are living in a time of unprecedented technological change. Newspaper ads in the 1990s for Radio Shack contained lists of products that now all fit in a single hand-held device. We in the Physics Department are dedicated to empowering Carnegie Mellon students to thrive in this era.

Foundationally, we aim to teach critical thinking. Most physics majors today will not use Lagrangians in their professions, but learning how to analyze familiar problems in mechanics with this novel tool opens up possibilities of looking at old problems in new ways. Beyond this broad skill, we are increasingly teaching our students about the technologies of tomorrow. This fall, we offered an advanced course on quantum computing and enrollment neared 40 students from all across the university. Finally, data science is permeating industries from journalism to food delivery. In addition to adding courses and content on this rapidly changing topic, we are mentoring students in individual research projects and increasingly exposing them to data science.

In this issue of Interactions, you’ll get a glimpse of some of the people and programs working at the forefront of emerging areas of science. Our talented faculty, students and alumni are innovating in the field of two-dimensional materials, applying data science to fields from cosmology to baseball and leading in international subatomic physics collaborations.

Locally, we are also living though a time of rapid growth and change in our department. You will read about the wonderful new faculty who will be joining us. At the same time, we celebrated the retirement of a number of faculty and staff who have served the department for decades. We thank them for all they have done for the department, and we thank those who have stepped up to keep moving the department forward.

We are all aware that the task of educating future generations is both a great honor and responsibility, especially in this rapidly changing environment. Kudos to everyone in the department: you would have made Einstein proud with your dedication.